HALIFAX (GNB) – The premiers of the Atlantic provinces are moving forward on their commitment to review jointly the impact of the federal government’s recent changes to the Employment Insurance.

They announced this regional consultation and research initiative after their meeting in White Point, N.S., in April.

“This is an important issue for all Atlantic Canadians,” said Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, chair of the Council of Atlantic Premiers. “The Employment Insurance system has a significant impact on ensuring a stable workforce, which is an important part of our ability to grow the economy and attract new jobs to Atlantic Canada. It is vital we have a full understanding of the implications the reforms are having on workers, employers and communities.”

The Atlantic Premiers’ Panel on Impacts of Changes to Employment Insurance is composed of a representative from each Atlantic province. It will work throughout the summer to analyze impacts of the changes in preparation for consultations in September. A final report by the Atlantic Premiers’ Panel is anticipated in October.

Members of the panel are:

●    Danny Cavanagh, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Nova Scotia;
●    Iris Petten, chair of the board of regents, Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador;
●    Ian MacPherson, executive director, Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association; and
●    Pierre-Marcel Desjardins, economist and professor, Université de Moncton, who will serve as panel chair.

They were selected from labour, business and academic sectors based on their extensive experience, community involvement and understanding of the Atlantic economy, labour market and industries.

The premiers established the panel to obtain a more complete understanding of the federal government’s unilateral changes to the national program, which is funded by employers and employees.

The federal government carried out its decision to implement major changes without essential research and consultation. The premiers have called on the federal government to share relevant Employment Insurance data.

“Access to Employment Insurance data held by the federal government is critical to the success of this initiative,” said Dexter. “We would like to move forward in co-operation with the federal government and to work together to make sure Atlantic Canadians are getting the employment supports they need.”

The panel will review specific changes to the program, including the introduction of the Connecting Canadians with Available Jobs Initiative; changes to the Working While on Claim Pilot Project; the expiry of the Best 14 Weeks Pilot Project and the Extended Employment Insurance Benefits Pilot Project; as well as changes to the appeals process and the new Social Security Tribunal.

The report will provide a detailed analysis of the impacts of the Employment Insurance reforms, including economic forecasts and the effects on workers, communities and businesses, in particular seasonal industries. The final report will also include recommendations on next steps.

More information about the Atlantic Premiers’ Panel on Impacts of Changes to Employment Insurance are online.

Following are biographies of the members of the Atlantic Premiers’ Panel on Impacts of Changes to Employment Insurance:

Danny Cavanagh

Cavanagh was first elected as president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Nova Scotia in April 2005. In October 2005, he was elected regional vice-president, representing Nova Scotia on the national executive board of CUPE and its 625,000 members across Canada. Cavanagh is a member of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour Executive, serving as a vice-president at large and chair of the education committee. In 2009, he was appointed by Dexter as a labour representative on the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council and continues to serve in that role. Cavanagh is a 28-year member of the Bible Hill Volunteer Fire Brigade. He serves as a national executive board member for CUPE's literacy committee and is a Literacy Nova Scotia board member. Cavanagh holds provincial certifications in water distribution, water treatment and sewage collection and has worked for the Town of Truro since March 1980.

Pierre-Marcel Desjardins
Desjardins has a PhD in economics and has been teaching economics at the Université de Moncton since 1990. He is also a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration. He is vice-president of the Fédération des caisses populaires acadiennes; executive director of the Canadian Regional Science Association; member of the board of directors of the Caisse populaire Kent-Sud; and member of the advisory committee for the Sainte-Marie-de-Kent local service district.

Ian MacPherson

MacPherson has a keen interest in the agricultural and fishery sectors in Atlantic Canada and issues that impact these industries. He has an extensive senior management background in private and corporate business. This has included multiple location management of operations in Canada and the United States. He has spent most of his career with an international Fortune 100 company. His background includes specialization in human resources, conflict resolution, strategic planning and negotiation. MacPherson is the executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association. He is also involved with the Food Security Network and the Belfast Historical Society. He is vice-chair of the Farm Centre board of directors in Charlottetown. Past involvements have also included executive positions in various chambers of commerce, community groups, event and project organizing committees. MacPherson brings a diverse goal focused background to the organizations and causes in which he participates.

Iris Petten
Petten is a Memorial University alumna with experience as a corporate board member within private, publicly traded, Crown and non-profit corporations. She graduated from Memorial University in 1984 with a bachelor of arts in economic geography and business administration. She graduated with a bachelor of vocational education in 1997. She is a senior executive with more than 20 years’ experience in the fishing industry. She has served as corporate director of Canship Ugland Ltd., Penney Ugland Ltd., Canada Post Corporation and Oceanex Income Trust. Her work and volunteer experience with many organizations – including Kids Eat Smart, Newfoundland and Labrador Angel Network Easter Seals and the advisory committee of the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University – illustrate her exceptional versatility and adaptability within a variety of organizations. She serves as chair of the board of regents at Memorial University.